Expert Pharmacist Karen Baker reveals the do’s and don’ts for new Pharmacists and Pharmacy Assistants

Starting a new job can be intimidating and stressful – especially for new pharmacists and pharmacy assistants who are immediately placed in a customer-facing advisory role, with people who can be distressed and distraught.

The scenarios they find themselves in can be very different to the training and educational programmes they’ve completed, but with almost 30 years of experience in the industry, Care’s expert pharmacist, Karen Baker, provides some key do’s and don’ts for new pharmacists and pharmacy assistants.

Understanding your role and responsibilities within your team is paramount to the smooth running of the pharmacy.

Karen comments: “The pharmacist and pharmacy assistant both have the same aim – to help patients and customers in the pharmacy access the medication, advice and services which are beneficial for their health.

She continues: “A pharmacy assistant tends to help pharmacists and pharmacy technicians order, prepare and dispense medicines, as well as stock management and patients liaison. Meanwhile, the pharmacist will be responsible for clinically checking prescriptions and overseeing the dispensing process, and often performing the accuracy check on them. They also provide patients with advice about medicines and treatments and provide public health information to promote wellness. Assessment of minor ailments and oversight of the sales of over-the-counter medicines for treating them is also part of the pharmacist’s role.”

Once you’ve got a clear understanding of what you’ll be expected to do within your pharmacy team, Karen provides some insight on what you should be doing whilst working behind the counter:

  1. “Learn from other members of the team by watching and listening. They will know not only the procedures and ways of doing things, but also the regular customers.”

2. “Remember that customer service is the most essential element of a successful pharmacy. Always give great service and you won’t go far wrong.”

3.“Learn from feedback. Feedback from customers and other members of the team help you improve, so use it as an opportunity to get better at your job, rather than seeing it as a criticism and dismissing it.”

4. “You are part of a team, so be friendly to everyone. You are all in this together, and only by working as a team will you be successful. Plus, a pharmacy is a small team of people working in a small place, so you want the workplace to have a good atmosphere for everyone.”

5. “Make sure you have learning time and use it to improve your knowledge. There will be lots you need to go through, from Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to information governance, as well as learning about services offered at the pharmacy, and accredited pharmacy training programmes. Don’t be overwhelmed but work your way through it gradually. Working in a pharmacy is not just a job, but a career, and it will mean continuous learning. Get into the habit early. Care’s Ultimate Guide to Care app is a great resource to ensure staff training is not forgotten and a module such as Well Being at Work could prove useful, outside of product training.” And having spent years in the industry, Karen also reveals some behaviours to avoid:

1. “Don’t think you know it all from the start. Even if you are an experienced assistant or pharmacist, you won’t know the ways every team works in different pharmacies, so be willing to learn from those you are working with.”

2. “Don’t be overheard gossiping whilst behind the counter. It can sometimes feel like a way to make a connection with other people, but pharmacies are increasingly become the heart of a community and the go to place for people struggling, so it’s vital the public feel they are in a safe space.

3. “Don’t stand around doing nothing. In a pharmacy there is always something to do, so ask if you are in doubt. If you are a new pharmacy assistant and there are no customers to serve, take the time to pick up a product off the shelf and read the information on the packet. You can learn a lot by doing that.”

4. “Don’t guess if you are not sure. Especially as a new pharmacy assistant, you will know less than other members of the team and will always be working with a pharmacist who you can ask to help you, so if in doubt, ask. Customers ask at the pharmacy as they want expert help, and it can be dangerous if they are given incorrect advice, so always refer if you need to.”

As new pharmacists and pharmacy assistants enter the industry, these are just some of the ways they can ensure they build a positive and long-lasting career, as well as enjoy time behind the pharmacy counter.

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